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Manchester United is repeating the same mistakes in the transfer market and it will only end one way

Casemiro, Erik ten Hag, Christian Pulisic.
Casemiro and Christian Pulisic are among the players to be linked with United this summer.
Getty/Chris Brunskill; Getty/Jan Kruger; Getty/Matthew Ashton

  • Manchester United's is repeating the same mistakes it's made over and over in the transfer market.
  • The club has been linked to a number of high-profile names after a poor start to the season.
  • But manager Erik ten Hag needs time and freedom, not just money, to help fix the club. 

When Erik ten Hag agreed to take charge of United earlier this year, it was supposed to mark the dawn of a new era for the club.

Finally, the years of buying big with little success on the transfer market were to be gone. The Dutch coach would be afforded a blank slate to recreate the kind of young, hungry, and technically gifted squad he did during his five seasons at Ajax.

Just two weeks into the new season, however, and that plan has already been put to bed.

After enduring a difficult pre-season, marred by rumors that Cristiano Ronaldo had asked to leave the club, and its worst start to an English Premier League season ever, United finds itself at the bottom of the table and is already eyeing up players from every corner of Europe to help right the ship. 

This week alone, the club has been linked with moves for Chelsea's Christian Pulisic, Real Madrid's Casemiro, Atletico Madrid duo Alvaro Morata and Matheus Cunha, and Ten Hag's former Ajax star Anthony. 

Last week, United pulled out of a shock move for the former Stoke City forward Marko Arnautovic after backlash from fans, while a move for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot has also collapsed.

PSV's Cody Gakpo, Brighton's Moises Caiceido, and RB Salzburg's Benjamin Šeško – who has agreed to join RB Leipzig next year – have also been linked with moves to Old Trafford in recent weeks. 

Alvaro Morata centre-forward of Atletico de Madrid and Spain during the La Liga Santander match between Getafe CF and Atletico de Madrid at Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Alvaro Morata is another player who has been linked with United.
Getty/Jose Breton

How much influence Ten Hag has on the players United is now approaching is unknown, but one thing that is for sure is that a "buy big and buy for now" approach to the market won't solve the Red Devils' problems on the field.

In the nine years since Sir Alex Ferguson left the club, every manager that has taken charge has employed a similar tactic.

Louis van Gaal spent $85 million to bring Real Madrid superstar Angel Di Maria to Old Trafford in 2014, only to find out the Argentine wasn't suited to the Premier League and see him leave a year later. To replace Di Maria, Van Gaal then signed 21-year-old Memphis Depay from PSV Eindhoven for $36 million. He also left after only one year.

In 2016, Jose Mourinho paid Juventus $113 million to bring Paul Pogba back to United, where he had spent his formative years. Pogba continued to thrive internationally for France but was never able to find his feet in England. He rejoined Juventus this summer for free. Mourinho was also responsible for the $92 million signing of striker Romelu Lukaku in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the Belgian didn't suit Mourinho's style of play, and he left for Inter Milan two years later.

Ten Hag's predecessor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spent $97 million to prize Harry Maguire away from Leicester in 2018, a world record fee for a defender. Though he's now the club's captain, Maguire has been dubbed by club legend Rio Ferdinand as the "worst defender" United has ever signed.

Solskajer also paid Borussia Dortmund $92 million for Jadon Sancho, Real Madrid $43 million for Raphael Varane, and was responsible for bringing Ronaldo back to Old Trafford last summer. All three transfers have, in one way or another, failed.

Albert Einstein described insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

If the club wants Ten Hag to succeed, he needs to be given the time, space, and freedom – not just the money – to make the right signings for the future of the club — not just the big, splashy ones.

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